Abstract

Strata exposed in terraces and modern cutbanks along the Rio Desaguadero contain a variety of lithofacies that were deposited in four distinct facies associations. These facies associations document a history of aggradation and downcutting that is linked to Holocene climate change on the Altiplano. Braided-stream, meandering-stream, deltaic and shoreline, and lacustrine sediments preserved in multi-level terraces in the northern Rio Desaguadero Valley record two high-water intervals; one between 4500 and 3900 yr BP and another between 2000 and 2200 yr BP. These wet periods were interrupted by three periods of fluvial downcutting, centered at approximately 4000 yr BP, 3600 yr BP, and after 2000 yr BP. Braided-river sediments preserved in a single terrace level in the southern Rio Desaguadero Valley record a history of nearly continuous fluvial sedimentation from at least 7000 yr BP until approximately 3200 yr BP that was followed by a single episode (post-3210 yr BP) of down-cutting and lateral migration. The deposition and subsequent fluvial downcutting of the northern strata was controlled by changes in effective moisture that can be correlated to Holocene water-level fluctuations of Lake Titicaca. The deposition and dissection of braided-stream sediments to the south are more likely controlled by a combination of base-level change and sediment input from the Rio Mauri.

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